A job in the tradeshow industry means traveling often and working long hours. It means answering phone calls in the middle of the night and making sure clients are happy and satiated. With all of these demands, women in the industry often struggle with the concept of “having it all.”
Finding a balance between a successful professional career and a healthy home life is a constant battle for most women. To exceed in either place, certain sacrifices must be made.
In the article, “Women Can’t Have It All” by Steve Doughty, the idea of “having it all” is something that is ultimately unattainable and therefore non-existent.
“Those who try to combine high-powered jobs with having children really only end up with ‘nominal families’ with whom they spend little time,” writes Doughty.
He goes on to cite Dr. Catherine Hakim, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, who says that, “half of all women in senior positions are child-free, and a lot more of them have families with a single child, and they subcontract out the work of caring for them to other women.”
Creating a prosperous family life and balancing it with a successful career is certainly not an easy feat to accomplish, especially in an industry where traveling long distances for several days is customary.
In fact, in 2011, tradeshow attendees traveled an average of 1,346 miles and spent 2.5 days just visiting exhibits.
“I don’t believe there’s a ‘perfect job’ with no downsides,” said Candy Adams, “The Booth Mom” Tradeshow Consulting. “I’ve had years when I’ve worked 3-4 months of 20-hour work days just to keep ahead of the show schedule for clients.”
Among the many life elements that can be affected and strained by a career in the tradeshow industry is marriage. Traveling often and working late hours can pose a variety of conflicts with a significant other.
“I went into both my long-term relationship and my recent marriage knowing that having a partner who understood my crazy career and travel schedule was critical to a successful relationship,” said Adams. “I was actually in the midst of a divorce when I started managing exhibits.”
Choosing a career in the convention industry can also add stress to motherhood, which is often considered the next step after marriage.
“It can be challenging at times to find child care on evenings and weekends, when my husband works a similar schedule,” said Rachel Fox, regional sales manager, Angles on Design.
However, despite these struggles, “having it all” is not impossible.
In “Shattering The Work/Life Balance Myth,” an article by Lisa Quast, founder of Career Woman Inc., balancing work and personal lives is something every successful woman must practice.
For her article, Quast sat down with several women and asked them what their idea of professional and personal balance is.
“What we found interesting is that none of the women could provide a clear definition of work/life balance because what worked as a definition for one woman didn’t work for another,” wrote Quast. “Every person in the room defined work/life balance in a different way; and each person was looking at the others in amazement.”
Ladies throughout the tradeshow industry are finding their own ways to create a harmony between work and home, and each method and ideology varies. For many of these ladies, harmony is feasible with hard work and patience.
“I communicate with my husband and we cover each other’s absences,” said Janice Shokrian, marketing and business development, ShopForExhibits.com. “I’m trying to make certain not to work outside my allotted hours. It’s hard for me since I’m an overachiever by nature.”
While some women make sure not to over-work themselves, other women prefer to prepare for unforeseen circumstances, allowing room for flexibility between work and home.
“As a one-person company, I’ve trained a couple of protégés who I know can take over for me if need be,” said Adams. “I’m totally comfortable with it, and my clients haven’t had a problem when I’ve needed to ‘call in the reinforcements.’”
Creating and keeping an open line of communication with company officials is a good balancing tactic to have as well.
“Make sure you have an understanding between yourself and your employer,” said Fox. “The key is to analyze and problem solve ahead of time. Implement back-up plans, as there will be days and weeks that you can’t control.”
As for young ladies who are just starting in the industry, the advice of seasoned tradeshow veterans can be a useful companion when learning how to navigate and balance work and home.
“Do you work to live or live to work?” said Adams. “We all have to make choices and then live with their consequences. Know what you want and choose wisely.”